Led by Ethos Church, a group of Nashville churches spent 30 days praying for their city. That’s not unusual, because many churches around the world pray for their cities. What sets the group in Nashville apart is that they took it a step further and decided to pray for every single resident of the city. In fact, the participants of Awaken Nashville were encouraged to send postcards letting people know they prayed for them. Some Nashvillians, however, took umbrage at the prayer and postcards, deeming the whole enterprise intrusive and a violation of their privacy.
Speaking to Religion News Service, Ethos Church’s pastor Dave Clayton said, “I love this city, and it’s a great time to be here, but we just had this conviction that despite all the good things that were going on, there’s still a lot of pain. We started wrestling with how we could love and care for the city. I think there are a lot of answers to that, but for us the starting place was prayer.”
From there, it didn’t take long for Clayton and the members of Ethos Church to arrive at the idea of praying for every single resident. A daunting task, but encouraged by their belief in the power of prayer Awaken Nashville was born. Over 350 churches embraced the idea and committed to spending a month fasting and praying for Nashville’s residents by name. It was the encouragement to send postcards to the people they prayed for that sparked the ire of some Nashvillians.
Speaking to RNS, Cory Johnson protested, “I just couldn’t believe that some creepy guy I don’t even know was taking time out of his day to tell me how to live my life. I genuinely believe the project is a form of trespassing and a huge invasion of privacy.”
Another prayer postcard recipient who wanted to remain anonymous said, “In the card, an anonymous person indicated that for nearly a month, they had been praying for me to let Jesus Christ into my heart. What creeped me out was not just that the person was sending well wishes my way, but instead praying for me to make a religious conversion.”
Not all the responses have been negative, though, with many Nashville residents expressing gratefulness for the prayers and postcards. No doubt, some overly-exuberant prayer warrior overshared while writing their postcard, but based on the guidelines for writing the cards provided by Ethos Church, it’s difficult to see why anyone would be bothered by the project.
The participants are instructed to keep their note simple and focused on Jesus and his love for the individual receiving the postcard. The instructions prohibit the promotion of any single church or agenda. Simply meant to let Nashville residents know that they have been prayed for and that Jesus loves them, the whole endeavor should be considered innocuous if you don’t believe in the power of prayer.
Referencing the anonymous person bothered that another anonymous person would dare pray for him “to make a religious conversion,” it’s odd to be upset by that unless you believe the prayer might work. As far as the violation of privacy concerns, I’m assuming that those bothered are not on any social media platforms. I’m also assuming that they rage against junk mail they receive from local businesses vying for their money.
The fact is that people look for reasons to be upset. For many, their identity is rooted in suffering grievances and wagging their fist in response. Frankly, many of those who are upset at the postcards may owe Awaken Nashville a thank you for providing them the opportunity to whine.
The churches in Nashville that participated in Awaken Nashville should be commended for their love for their community.